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Glass of RO water on the kitchen counter.

3 Signs Your RO Water Filter Needs to Be Swapped Out

There are certain maintenance issues that are easy to remember. For example, most of us know when it’s time to change the oil in our car. Or we might have reminders for swapping out the air filter for our home’s HVAC system. Remembering to change your RO water filter can be another matter. But when you want clean and safe water, this can’t be overlooked.

How Long Do RO Filters Last?

While a reverse osmosis water system—otherwise known as an RO system—is extremely powerful, its filters won’t last forever. These units need a little maintenance from year to year to keep them running like they should. Otherwise, the water you’ll be drinking won’t actually be RO water.

When functioning correctly, the RO filtration process has three, or sometimes four, distinct stages: a sediment pre-filter, a carbon pre-filter, the reverse osmosis membrane, and then the carbon post-filter. Each of those different RO water filter types will need to be replaced in order to keep your drinking water clean. How long these filters last usually depends on your usage factors. A family of six probably drinks a lot more water than a family of three, so their filters may need to be replaced twice as often.

The reverse osmosis membrane can last between two and five years. The other filters, however, normally need to be replaced much sooner. The RO system pre-filters might be good for six months to one year. It just depends on the water quality in your area. The carbon post-filter should be swapped out about as often. A good rule of thumb is to stick to an annual routine. But again, the water usage in your home can make a big difference.

Signs Your RO Water Filter Isn’t Working

If you still aren’t sure whether your system is ready for new filters, quickly scan these common problems. Without regularly replacing your water filters, you could be dealing with breakthrough issues, which means your system is so backlogged, it could actually be leaching those contaminants back into your drinking water. You shouldn’t notice any odd tastes or smells with RO filtered water, and your system shouldn’t be taking a long time to refill the storage tank.

Problem One: Water Pressure

Feeling a little impatient as your water glass refills? Low water pressure is a sure sign that your filter replacement is long overdue. You can think of this like the lint trap in your dryer. Cleaning that out after each load of laundry helps your system be more efficient. Your RO faucet is never going to be “jet powered,” but the flow rate does need to be relatively quick.

Problem Two: Taste

Drinking reverse osmosis water means you aren’t swallowing the metals, minerals, or bacteria that can be found in tap water. Another one of the main reasons why people like the taste of RO water so much is that it doesn’t have the smell and taste of chlorine. Noticing that taste is a sure sign that the carbon filters in your system need to be replaced. Make it a habit to change those at least once a year to get tasty RO water.

Problem Three: System Always Running

Another sign that your RO filters have failed is if your unit sounds like it’s always cycling through water. This goes back to efficiency and your flow rate. Clean filters make for a better system. Plus, maintaining your RO unit is very affordable—often around 60 cents per day.

It’s also a matter of water quality and safety. Apart from getting better-tasting water, you probably first got your RO system installed because you wanted clean water. If the filters aren’t clean themselves, then your system can’t do its job. Calling your local water filtration company can help ensure you’re getting the best water possible. Sometimes that requires actual repairs, but other times, it’s as simple as replacing your filters!

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